NASA counts right down to inside 29 seconds of launching the big SLS rocket

NASA's Space Launch System rocket, reflected in the turn basin at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, rolls out for a fourth attempt at a wet rehearsal dress on June 6, 2022.
Enlarge / NASA’s House Launch System rocket, mirrored within the flip basin on the Kennedy House Middle in Florida, rolls out for a fourth try at a moist rehearsal gown on June 6, 2022.

Trevor Mahlmann

NASA tried thrice throughout April to finish a important fueling check of its giant House Launch System rocket. And thrice, as a result of about half a dozen technical issues, the area company failed.

And so NASA made the troublesome choice to roll the big rocket again into the Car Meeting Constructing for repairs, including a few months of delays to a program already years not on time. After this work was accomplished in early June, NASA rolled the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft again out to the launch pad for a fourth strive.

The painful choice turned out to be the proper one. Over the course of greater than 14 hours on Monday, NASA largely succeeded in finishing this fueling check, loading a whole lot of hundreds of gallons of liquid oxygen and hydrogen into the primary and second levels of the SLS rocket.

“It was an extended day for the crew, however I feel it was a really profitable day for the crew,” he mentioned Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, Artemis launch director.

She and different NASA officers joined a convention name with reporters on Tuesday to debate the outcomes of the fourth “wet-dress rehearsal” check, which is meant to work out the kinks of counting down the rocket to liftoff earlier than launch day. To that extent, the check largely appeared to work. NASA obtained to inside T-29 seconds of liftoff in the course of the check, close to its meant goal of T-9.3 seconds, earlier than ending the check simply previous to igniting the rocket’s 4 most important engines.

Through the teleconference, NASA officers declined to reply particular questions on whether or not a fifth check was going to be wanted — to carry the depend right down to T-9.3 seconds — or when the rocket could also be prepared for its debut launch. Citing a want to overview extra knowledge, the officers mentioned they anticipated to supply this info in a pair extra days. From their feedback, nonetheless, it sounded just like the officers could also be leaning towards a fifth check.

A handful of technical issues occurred throughout Monday’s check, probably the most vital of which was a hydrogen leak in a fast disconnect on the backside of the cell launch tower that helps the SLS rocket throughout fueling. This 4-inch hydrogen line is one among a number of which are launched from the rocket simply earlier than liftoff and are linked to the tower’s tail service mast.

NASA was unable to resolve the issue with a leaky seal in the course of the latter portion of Monday’s check, so it as a substitute selected to masks the leak from the bottom launch sequencer, the ground-side laptop that controls nearly all of the countdown. This posed no danger to the rocket in the course of the check however would should be fastened earlier than an precise launch.

With this little bit of masking, the NASA launch crew was capable of get from T-10 minutes all the best way right down to T-29 seconds and exhibit the flexibility to not solely fill the SLS rocket but in addition preserve its gas tanks topped off. When the bottom launch sequencer handed off to the rocket’s onboard laptop for the ultimate portion of the countdown, the flight laptop mechanically ended the depend.

NASA officers preferred what they noticed. “That is the primary time that we’ve been in a completely cryogenic atmosphere on each the core stage and the higher stage,” Blackwell-Thompson mentioned. “Terminal depend is a really dynamic time. I totally anticipated that we would have one or two issues that we would want to speak about in terminal depend, nevertheless it was extraordinarily clean. There was nothing to speak about.”

This fueling check is the ultimate main impediment between the SLS rocket and a launch try later this 12 months. There may be nonetheless work to be completed, and the company has to determine whether or not one other moist gown check is critical. However Mike Sarafin, the Artemis I mission supervisor, mentioned he believed that, thus far, NASA has accomplished about 90 % of the check aims.

Along with fixing the leaky hydrogen seal, NASA nonetheless must roll the rocket again to the Car Meeting Constructing to put in and arm the flight termination system. This work possible precludes a launch try earlier than the top of September on the earliest.

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